The New England Patriots haven’t finished in last place in the AFC East division since 2000, when they went 5-11 in Bill Belichick‘s first season as head coach.
Since then, the Patriots have won 17 AFC East crowns, nine AFC championships and six Super Bowl titles.
But things are now different for the Patriots with the 2023 league year beginning Wednesday.
The Patriots are coming off a 8-9 season in 2022 that saw them miss the playoffs and struggle mightily on offense. They did hire a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien, which was a good first step, but the lack of talent and depth at the skill positions is glaring. The defense was solid last year, but the group just lost veteran safety and team captain Devin McCourty to retirement.
Free agency began Monday and the only notable signing the Patriots have made so far is wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who will replace the recently departed Jakobi Meyers as the top wideout on the depth chart.
Sure, the Patriots could still make a trade to bring in an impact player on offense. They also have 11 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft next month, including the No. 14 overall selection in the first round.
But right now, this Patriots roster is not in a good spot. Oddsmakers seem to agree, as they currently give the Patriots the worst odds to win the division in 2023.
Here are the latest AFC East betting lines, via DraftKings Sportsbook:
- Buffalo Bills: +135
- New York Jets: +200
- Miami Dolphins: +360
- New England Patriots: +800
The Bills have won this division three years in a row. Despite a disappointing exit in the AFC Divisional Round last season, the Bills still have an excellent roster and one of the league’s top quarterbacks in Josh Allen.
The New York Jets haven’t had division odds this good in a while. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers revealed Wednesday his intention is to play for the Jets next season. If the Packers and Jets can work out a trade, New York will all of a sudden have an elite QB for the first time in many years.
The Miami Dolphins struggled late in 2022 but they did make the playoffs. Miami still has a very good roster and just acquired star cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Los Angeles Rams.
The Patriots feasted on weak AFC East competition from 2001 through 2019. They face a very different scenario in the division right now. In fact, the AFC East might be the best division in football next season. The Patriots will need to show dramatic improvement to contend for the division title and return to the playoffs.